I am not someone that shies away from hard conversations with my children but that doesn't mean it's always easy to have the conversations. I just feel like it's part of my job as a parent to talk about the tough stuff.
It helps that I have studied child development, am a social worker and have worked with children for over 30 years but it doesn't mean I always say the right thing.
The point is not to be perfectly articulate about these things. The point is to begin to have dialogue about these things and what I can do.
So, how do you bring up issues of race, gender, sex, religion, and body talk?
I always start with books. Books are always my go to for everything with children because they are concrete and have pictures. Then I move on to pointing things out in movies, real life, and other media.
Here are some examples of how I bring up real issues with my sons:
1) Notice who is missing? Who isn't represented?
2) Notice who is overly represented?
3) See how this movie is showing us that a princess needs to be rescued by a prince? That isn't real. Women never need to be rescued by men. This is just a movie- it's pretend.
4) Do you notice that there are only White people in this movie? Do you notice how there are only 2 women sitting around that table?
5) Look around- a very long time ago White people came over on ships from far across the sea and they took over the land from the people who were living here. Those people had houses, communities, and they loved their land. But White men wanted the land for themselves because they didn't think the people living here deserved it.
As they get older I add to these statements: the White people began killing the indigenous people and eventually they had very little land for themselves. We are living on their land and that doesn't seem fair.
6) Many White people think that if people aren't White they aren't good people. That they are better than people who look different than them. And sometimes White people will hurt people with different color skin because their skin isn't White. I don't think that's okay. Being White means that we get to do a lot of things much easier than other people. Being White means having power in this world and we need to use that power to help other White people stop hurting people who aren't White.
7) No gender owns a color or symbol- you can wear whatever you want to wear. Whatever makes you feel good about being you.
8) We're Jewish and this is how we do 'x' in our house but other Jewish people might do it differently and that's okay. Every family gets to decide how they want to do certain things.
9) God made people in all shapes and sizes and we are all beautiful.
These are just some examples and obviously the conversations look very different with a 12, 7, and 2 year old but they are happening. Because if we don't talk about these things with our children someone else will, and by then it might be too late.